Sink or Swim: Week 4

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Well, Week 3 didn’t go exactly as planned for my predictions, as well as plenty of NFL teams who found themselves in dogfights with teams they were expected to beat. It was really just a weird week in general for football. I had some bad misses on the Sink side of things, with Demarco Murray and TY Hilton blowing up. I also had some bad misses on the Swim side, as Hunter Henry did absolutely nothing, Jay Cutler was stymied by the Jets defense for 98% of the game, and basically all the running backs underperforming. I have a better feeling about Week 4 being more normal, but with so much parody in the NFL these days, who really knows. With that, let’s hope for a better week and get to these predictions then.

QUARTERBACK

SWIM

Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos):

The Raiders have a knack for making opposing QB’s look good in recent history and so far this season, QB’s have a 112 QB rating against them. Last week’s let down in Buffalo was to be expected and not a cause to give up on Siemian just yet. He gets a favorable matchup at home, against a leaky Raiders secondary that was just torched by Kirk Cousins.

Eli Manning (New York Giants):

Manning and the Giants offense finally broke out this past weekend, with Manning throwing for 366 yards and 3 TDs. With a new passing attack that emphasizes getting the ball out quickly to hide their o-line problems, Eli was able to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers all day long. The Bucs will be without Lavonte David this week and will be playing with a banged up Gerald McCoy and Brent Grimes. With Tampa Bays secondary allowing a career game to Case Keenum last week, I’m expecting a huge day for Eli with the Giants still searching for their first win.

Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams):

Goff and the Rams offense certainly have looked legit more often than not this season, and they get a tasty matchup against a Cowboys defense that is hurting at the moment. Sean Lee will be out, and their young group of defensive backs has been ineffective to begin the year, allowing 556 passing yards and 6 TD’s the past two games. Those two QB’s, by the way, were Trevor Siemian and Carson Palmer, hardly elite. Sure Palmer got hit a bunch in that game, but his o-line pales in comparison to the Rams current iteration. This is a game I actually believe the Rams will win outright, with them coming off the mini-bye week and the Cowboys on the short week. 

SINK

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers):

Even if Ben wasn’t off to such a slow start to the season, going into Baltimore to play one of the toughest pass defense’s going right now would be enough to stay away this week. This game should easily stay under the Vegas line, as I expect a bit of a brawling run-happy attack from both sides. Don’t expect a QB1 finish from Big Ben this week.

Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers):

Going against the Patriots non-existent defense would typically make for any opposing QB to be a good play that week, but Newton just isn’t himself at the moment. His body is breaking down on him and his shoulder can’t be considered 100% yet. This game has the makings of a Patriots blowout, somewhere along the lines of 38-13. Outside of Christian McCaffrey, I wouldn’t trust any Panther skill player on Sunday.

Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders):

This is an obvious one, but there weren’t too many heavily rostered QB’s I don’t like this week. The Broncos defense did allow a solid fantasy day to Tyrod Taylor of all people last week, but they are an entirely different animal at home. I’d look for alternatives for the whole Raider offense if possible.

RUNNING BACK

SWIM

Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars):

The Jets defense surprised this past weekend, limiting Jay Ajayi to 16 yards on 11 carries in what was supposed to be a plus matchup for the RB. I’ll chalk this up to an anomaly, and think the entire Dolphins offense was underprepared for that game. It may be tough for the Jaguars to transition back to the states after playing in London on Sunday, but Fournette should still be the primary focus of the offense nonetheless. The Jets have allowed the 7th most fantasy points to RBs on the season still, so an RB1 finish should be there for Fournette this week.

Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers):

With Kelvin Benjamin going down last week and Greg Olsen already out, McCaffrey wound up being Cam Newton‘s go-to target in the passing game, throwing his way 11 times. Even if Benjamin plays this weekend, the offense will need to feed McCaffrey the ball a bunch to stay in the game with the Patriots, and I’d be surprised if McCaffrey doesn’t see an even bigger workload on Sunday. 20 touches wouldn’t be too outrageous given the potential game script.

Chris Carson (Seattle Seahawks):

On the other end of the spectrum, the Seahawks should be in a position to run the ball all night on Monday, with Carson likely seeing 20+ carries in that one. Against the Colts defense, that should be good enough for 80+ yards and a potential TD or 2. He makes for a solid RB2 with upside. The injury to CJ Prosise and Eddie Lacy/Thomas Rawls being phased out should keep him on the field for most of the game. Doug Baldwin’s injury concerns should also encourage a more run-heavy offense this week.

Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals):

This is it, the week of the Joe Mixon breakout is finally here. Hopefully at least, as this home matchup with the Browns is about as good as it gets for the young RB ready to be unleashed on the league. The Bengals should be playing up much of the game, so the positive game script for once should give us a look at what Mixon can actually do as a feature back. He looked good last week in his first taste in that role, showing good vision, power and athleticism. The time to buy low may be closing this weekend.

Deep Dives–Wendell Smallwood, Alvin Kamara: It’s probably best to proceed with caution with Wendell Smallwood, but in his first game here without Darren Sproles, he does get a favorable opponent in the Chargers. They’ve been hemorrhaging points to RB’s all season, so whether it is in the air or on the ground, Smallwood should have a good opportunity to produce RB3 value to fantasy owners in PPR leagues. Alvin Kamara is another PPR special, and with Adrian Peterson being useless all year, you have to wonder if even more snaps could open up for Kamara and Mark Ingram.

SINK

Demarco Murray (Tennessee Titans):

I was totally wrong about Murray last week, but I’m still willing to bet against him posting back to back games like that. Even after losing Brian Cushing, the Texans still have a stingy run defense while also becoming more vulnerable in the air due to injuries in the secondary. Derek Henry will still cut into Demarco’s workload, which hasn’t seen him touch the ball more than 15 times in a game yet this season.

Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns):

I thought last week against the Colts would be the big breakout game Crowell needed to get going but that never happened. Instead, the team fell behind quickly and relied on Duke Johnson’s passing game skills out of the backfield while using Crowell sparingly. This game could end up going the same way, playing on the road against an improved Bengals offense thirsty for its first win of the season after last week’s tough-luck loss in Green Bay. Vontaze Burfict also returns this week, making the Bengals run defense even more potent.

Ameer Abdullah (Detroit Lions):

Abdullah going up against the stout Vikings defense in Minnesota can hardly be a shocking name on this list. Even with Case Keenum at QB for the Vikes, the game should still remain close throughout and the Lions will likely keep the ball in the air. Abdullah may get his 15+ touches, but I don’t see him doing much with them.

WIDE RECEIVER

SWIM

Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams):

After being the focal point of the Rams pass offense last Thursday night, I am beginning to buy in on Watkins a little bit more this season. Sean McVay is one of the more creative offensive minds in football and seems determined to get his playmakers the football anyway they can. Watkins also showed well in making tough catches deep down the field. The Cowboys secondary was just destroyed on Monday night, and the Rams may need to dial up 30+ pass plays to hang with the Cowboys on Sunday.

Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals):

Larry Fitz balled out on Monday night, proving that he isn’t quite done just yet. He’s still an amazing talent when put in one on one situations and can win anywhere on the field despite losing some burst at this point in his career. He should be able to do basically whatever he wants against a 49ers defense that couldn’t cover anyone last Thursday night. With no known running game available in Arizona, look for Carson Palmer to drop back a ton and rely on Fitzgerald’s sure-handedness in this game.

Rishard Matthews (Tennessee Titans):

Corey Davis sitting out definitely boosts his value in this game, but even still, Matthews has a favorable matchup against the Texans patchwork secondary. He should continue to be Marcus Mariota’s 1st or 2nd read and should have a steady floor in PPR leagues with considerable TD upside.

Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos):

Oakland’s secondary is still very burnable so expect bounce back weeks from Denver’s two starting wideouts. The Broncos improved o-line play this year to go along with Mike McCoys play calling should put the teams offensive weapons in great position to outscore whatever the Raiders offense can muster on Sunday afternoon. Expect a few deep shots Sanders way, as he should see some more man to man coverage this week as well.

Adam Thielen (Minnesota Vikings):

Even if you aren’t buying Case Keenum’s week 3 breakout performance (and you shouldn’t be), Thielen still gets a juicy matchup lining up in the slot against a Lions team who continues to be burned by slot receivers. The Lions should at the very least keep the game close, so Keenum will have to make some throws, and with Stefon Diggs battling Darius Slay, Thielen seems like his best option.

Deep Dives–Kenny Stills, Travis Benjamin: I’m buying into the Kenny Stills revenge game narrative a little here, but the matchup on paper is also tantalizing. I see something like 4-80 and a TD as a reasonable line for Stills this weekend against his former team. I think Travis Benjamin could be an intriguing upside dart throw for those looking for a Flex option this week. The Eagles secondary had trouble containing Sterling Sheppard, whose profile compares similarly to Benjamin.

SINK

Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders):

Yes, Cooper is going against Chris Harris and the rest of that Denver secondary so he isn’t an appealing play this week anyway, but he just continues to drop passes at an alarming rate. He is become a maddeningly frustrating guy to own in fantasy. The talent to get open is there and Derek Carr can get him the ball, but until he stops making mistakes, it’s fair to wonder when/if he will ever reach his elite WR1 potential.

Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers):

He hasn’t done much this year anyway, but given the matchup with a Ravens secondary great at limiting big plays to opposing wideouts, Bryant is extremely hard to trust this weekend. Outside of the usual suspects, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, I wouldn’t be starting anyone on that Steeler offense if possible.

Jeremy Maclin (Baltimore Ravens):

The whole passing game will be difficult to trust this weekend after last Sundays London debacle, with Maclin definitely someone I’d be looking to avoid this week. The Steelers already have allowed the fewest amount of TDs to opposing receivers since the start of last season, and this game is setting up to be a brawl in the trenches to see who comes out on top.

TIGHT END

SWIM

Cameron Brate (Tampa Bay Buccaneers):

Brate finally got it going a little bit last weekend after finding the end zone and gets a nice matchup Sunday against a mediocre at best Giants linebacking group. The Giants have also allowed some nice fantasy games to tight ends to start the season, with Jason Witten, Eric Ebron and Zach Ertz scoring 15.2 points on average in PPR leagues. The way to attack the Giants secondary is in the middle of the field, so expect a lot of targets to go Brates’ way.

Charles Clay (Buffalo Bills):

Clay continues to be Tyrod Taylor’s most trustworthy target, and will probably need to have a big game on Sunday for the Bills to have any chance at competing with the Falcons in Atlanta. Clay’s red zone usage has also been a big plus, with him seeing 4 targets inside the 10-yard line on the year so far, tied for 3rd in all of football.

Eric Ebron (Detroit Lions):

Ebron should see some solid passing game volume this week against the Vikings, who have allowed opposing tight ends to score in each of the past 2 weeks. Matt Stafford should have a tough time passing to his perimeter receivers, but the middle of the field should be vulnerable, making Ebron one of the better TE plays out of a lackluster group this week.

SINK

Hunter Henry (San Diego Chargers):

For whatever reason, the Chargers thought it’d be wise to send out Henry on only 16 pass routes last week, which led to 0 targets. That is his second goose egg on the season now, and he clearly can’t be trusted at this point, unfortunately.

Coby Fleener (New Orleans Saints): 

Willie Snead is back, meaning we very well could have seen the last of Fleener’s fantasy usability for the year. I’d still wait out the week and see how the two are used before dropping Fleener in 12 teamers, but I would imagine Snead would cut right into most of Fleeners “value”. He hasn’t exactly been a trustworthy option anyway.

Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts):

Basically every Colt’s receiving option is not a viable play this weekend against the Seahawks, despite T.Y. Hilton finding success against the Browns last week. Doyle was supposed to be the one to have the big game but instead was shut down by a Browns defense that had previously been exposed by opposing tight ends.

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Rick Graham

Currently reside in Foxboro, MA so you can guess where my loyalties lie. Seasoned fantasy football vet who craves for the return of the true feature back. I also contribute over at PitcherList.com.

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